It’s starting to warm up here. I looked at Weather.com’s ten-day forecast yesterday, and the prognosticators said the highs will be close to or in the nineties for the next week. At least for today, Friday, they seem to be right. When I got up this morning about five o’clock, the thermostat said it was seventy-four in the room, and I opened the sliding door to let in the cool air. After two hours with the door open, the temperature in the room had risen to seventy-six.
That is quite a change from Monday and Tuesday. After dinner Monday, I set out in the buggy to make to at least two laps around the Covenant Woods’ grounds. My goal was to see the wheelchair’s odometer reach eight hundred miles. If two laps didn’t do it, I was prepared to keep circling the place until it read 8-0-0. Prepared, that is, until I got outside, where I discovered that despite the abundant sunshine, it was not an evening for shorts and a T-shirt. I made one quick lap before hustling back inside, the odometer only slightly closer to the magic number. I don’t know if it was any warmer Tuesday, but I was better prepared, sporting jeans and a sweatshirt. After two laps that evening, I began my quest for nine hundred miles.
Russ didn’t have to go to work until four, Tuesday, and he was kind enough to cart the old man around in the morning. We had lunch with Karen and Cecil, one of her colleagues, in a little restaurant downtown. It’s in a renovated building that must date from the 19th Century. We parked a block or two away, and the walk along the tree-lined sidewalk to the restaurant was very pleasant. While there were no signs of it that day, there must be some construction going on in the area, because in the middle of the block, next to the large red-brick building, in the shade of the trees, was a port-a-potty.
Inside the restaurant, there was lots of wood: wooden floors, wooden tables, wooden chairs and wooden counters. And you could watch the pedestrians and the cars through large picture windows. It wasn’t ornate or anything, but it had enough ambiance that I thought it might be a little pricey. But the prices were reasonable and the food was good; an excellent combination.
Back in Ashtabula County, the writing class convenes every Thursday morning at the Kingsville Public Library. I am indebted to Mary, who got me involved with it in the spring of 2009, when it met at the Conneaut Community Center for the Arts. I miss sitting around the table with Mary, Katie, Chuck, Jeannie, Gitta, Elaine, and Suzanne, our esteemed leader. And I think often of Celia, who has passed away, Joyce and Nancy, who have moved, and the others who dropped in from time to time. It was a most pleasant coincidence yesterday – Thursday – when I found a manila envelope from Suzanne in my mailbox. Inside, were marked up copies of a few things I’d e-mailed to her, and the program for the reading the group gave last Friday evening. And there was a clipping from the Star Beacon which said, “The reading will be dedicated to Tom Harris,” a very touching, but certainly undeserved honor. Between that, the ego-building lies Suzanne scribbled on the things I’d sent her, and her suggestion that I check out Blurb.com about the possibility of putting a book together, I suppose I’ll have to dedicate myself to being a more dedicated writer.
Yesterday afternoon, there was a little get together to recognize those of us with April birthdays. Shirley, the receptionist, saw me heading into the dining room for the festivities and came after me to present the bill for the May rent. That blow was softened ever so slightly a few minutes later, when each of the birthday folks received a five dollar WalMart gift card.
The entertainment was provided by Van Barnett. In the morning, Penelope, the activities director, announced over the intercom that Mr. Barnett sings just like Frank Sinatra. She must have been confused, because instead of Ol’ Blue Eyes, Van sounded much more like Ol’ Swivel Hips, and his show included several songs Elvis made famous. The highlight, for me anyway, was “Hey Good Looking.” The reason I enjoyed it so much was because I was sitting next to Evelyn, who is either ninety-one or ninety-two, depending on when you talk to her, and she enjoyed it much, much more. Swaying and clapping her hands to the beat, she joined right in singing, “Hey, hey, good looking, whatcha got cooking? Hows about cooking something up for me.” Two hours later, I talked to her for a moment at dinner, and she couldn’t remember having been to the party and was angry that no one had told her about it.
Not wishing to be overdressed for the affair, I wore my Ashtabula Icons T-shirt. Ashtabula Icons is the name of the multiple sclerosis support group that meets monthly at KSU-Ashtabula. As I made my way back to my room, a man headed the other way looked at the shirt and said, “Ashtabula!” He was in a hurry and didn’t stop to talk; he kept going right out the door. But he said “Ashtabula” as if he is familiar with the place, and he didn’t pronounce it “ash-TAB-ula.”
The number of people who are aware of Ashtabula often surprises me. When Nancy and I went to Boston last summer, a gentleman on the train told us he was living in California and had lived in Indonesia for several years. When he asked where we were from, we hurried to explain where Ashtabula is in relation to Cleveland. But, he cut us off. “I’m familiar with Ashtabula,” he said. He had retired from General Electric and had made several visits to the Conneaut plant over the years.
A few days later, we went to hear the Boston Pops. The couple at the table next to us ordered what they thought was a small bottle of wine. It wasn’t a small bottle, and they shared the wine with Nancy and me. After the concert, we talked for a few minutes, thanking them and unsuccessfully trying to give them money for the wine. They too were from California, and they weren’t at all mystified when we said we were from Ashtabula. The man had been a musician in his younger days, and one of his friends at the time was a trumpeter from Ashtabula.
Bethany sent some more video clips of Hayden this week. It is a long, long way from rolling around on the floor with him and cuddling him and trying to get him to say “Grandpa,” but it’s the next best thing. And I’m eternally grateful that Beth and Ken take the time to make and send them, and for the modern technology that makes it all possible.